With the Bulls and Stormers both powering ahead on the South African conference log, the Sharks simply cannot afford any further slip-ups now, with a 7-point gap between them and the conference leaders after just two weeks.
Although both defeats suffered in the opening rounds have been narrow, with Saturday’s loss against the Stormers certainly an “encouraging” one, if such a thing truly exists, fans are already starting to look back in dismay to the 2010 season; one which saw the Sharks simply unable to string together any sort of win until the sixth week of the competition. While those five early losses were all close and while the team did indeed come back strongly in the second half of the season, they simply couldn’t recover from that awful start and finished in ninth position, well out of semi-final contention.
I think it’s fair to say that with the depth of talent available within the 2012 squad, a repeat of that season’s performance would be about as unthinkable as it would be inexcusable. Simply put, the Sharks are a far better side than their current log position would indicate, but the next two weeks will be utterly crucial in making that statement anything more than just theoretical.
Away derby wins are the bread and butter of a team hoping to top their conference and in this regard, the Bulls did themselves a truly massive favour in trouncing the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. While the Stormers have just barely scored a pass mark for two scrappy home wins, it’s the men from Pretoria who laid down a huge marker this weekend and should any of the Lions, Stormers or Sharks lose to them at home, it’s going to be a pretty long season of catch-up rugby for the other South African sides.
The Sharks, though, now have a hill in front of them, simply to get off the foot of the table. Should they drop a home game to go along with their two away defeats, that hill will rapidly start to assume mountainous proportions. It’s time to get serious, Sharks, because there’s a distinct whiff of early-season promise evaporating…Tweet